Friday, January 25, 2008

The Magic of Lourmarin

I started what would be an almost perfect day unwrapping my Banon cheese. This is divine stuff – like brie, but no bite. I had this with the last of my rose-smoked salmon on my moist sans-gluten bread – pure heaven.
I got on the bus to Lourmarin - where I need to point out for the rest of the story – I held the bus schedule up to the bus driver so there could be no confusion that I was going to Lourmarin and paid for my ticket (you buy your tickets on the buses here). The bus made stops in a number of cute and interesting villages. I looked at my watch and knew we must be approaching Lourmarin. Sure enough – I saw the road sign and the bus turned and headed up a hill, which I presumed was into Lourmarin as the street sign said the name of one of the streets I was to look for. I disembarked and the driver gave me a broad smile and waved. I looked around for the tourist information office to get a map. I started following the signs but they seemed to be sending me much farther than what I had understood would be the case. I found myself in a maze of tiny streets and by some miracle arrived at the tourist office. A friendly woman greeted me and I asked for a map. She said, “For here?” and I said, “Yes, for Lourmarin.” A perplexed look crossed her face and she said, “This is Lauris.” Well you can imagine that the “merde” was next!
I had gotten off at the wrong damn village and the bus driver must have chuckled about this the rest of his day. I was trying to get to Lourmarin for their morning market which closes at 1pm and then meet some friends who run a B&B there for lunch. It was now 11:40. The taxi would take 10 minutes to arrive if I was lucky and set me back 12 euros. I decided to hoof the 5km to Lourmarin.
The woman was a little surprised by my choice but showed me on the map which road to take to the main road to Lourmarin and off I went. I tried not to be too cranky about this unexpected hike and instead enjoy the sunny morning as sweat poured down my torso.
I arrived in Lourmarin and found the market with about 20 minutes to spare. I bought incredible, freshly made tapenade, and an olive marmalade – out of this world (the vendor was offering me samples of every delectable item he had.)
I wound my way through the exquisite old stone village and found my friends – just as they were giving up on me.
We ate a delicious lunch of Aoli – a traditional Provencal dish with cooked vegetables and fish served with fresh garlic mayonnaise - some local red wine, and lots of talking as I had not had a full conversation with anyone since I left Switzerland.
After lunch I toured the beautiful and very special Les Olivettes Bed and Breakfast villa with individual apartments. For pictures see the website: . Les Olivettes is within walking distance of the village center, but is across the main road and has lovely grounds filled with gardens and olive trees – hence the name. In fact, you can come for your stay during olive harvest time and help pick the olives. Les Olivettes is not a budget accommodation, but rather a reasonably priced luxury accommodation, beautifully appointed.
My generous hosts then took me on a tour of two smaller, but equally magnificent nearby villages – Cucuron and Vangines – both filled with old stone buildings and much charm. On the drive back to Avignon we took the road through the Luberon, passing the Chateau Canorgue (Rte de Pont Julien, Bonnieux, Vaucluse), an organic and biodynamic vineyard.
A # 10 of a day even with getting off in the wrong town.

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